Buckeyes Win Some, Lose Some With Titles On Line In Bowl Games

There's no advantage to being in the national spotlight so often -- unless you win

Dec. 24, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State will be playing in its third national championship game in the last six seasons when it takes on LSU on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

So what, coach Jim Tressel says.

"Do we get any points for that?" he joked. "Do we get a two-point start because of that?"

No, there's no advantage to being in the national spotlight so often -- unless you win. And despite a glorious tradition -- 118 seasons, 798 wins, seven Heisman Trophy winners and a building full of trophies -- the Buckeyes have fallen short of doing even better over the years because they have come up empty-handed in bowl games.

The Buckeyes have appeared in 38 bowl games, tying them for ninth with LSU and rival Michigan among the top programs in the country (Alabama leads with 55). In those games, the Buckeyes have an 18-20 record. To put that success rate in perspective, Mississippi (19) has more bowl wins than Ohio State.

That's not to say Ohio State is a failure when the spotlight is the brightest. The Buckeyes have had several major victories over the years in the postseason -- locking up national championships in 1954 and '68 with wins in the Rose Bowl and taking the title in 2002 with a dramatic double-overtime thriller over top-ranked Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

The 1954 team, favored by 13 points over Southern California, received a good-luck telegram 40 yards in length the night before the game that was signed by 4,200 Buckeyes fans. In '68, the unbeaten Buckeyes ran the table with a sophomore-heavy lineup and then beat O.J. Simpson and USC in Pasadena.

The Buckeyes pulled off a 31-24 win in the Fiesta Bowl to take the 2-02 title, one that still resounds around campus and is featured prominently as you walk through the team's practice facility.

"It will be something that is very special the rest of their lives," Tressel said after that game, nodding to his players.

With a 4-1 record in Bowl Championship Series games under Tressel, Ohio State joins Southern Cal for the most wins in BCS games since the format was first put in place in 1998.



But the Buckeyes have been oh-so close so many other times:

-- 1970, No. 12 Stanford 27, No. 2 Ohio State 17. Coach Woody Hayes called it "an afternoon of missed opportunities" as quarterback Jim Plunkett engineered a comeback win over the Buckeyes. Ahead 17-13, the Buckeyes failed on a fourth-and-inches at the Stanford 19 to start the fourth quarter, and coach John Ralston's team scored the next two touchdowns.

-- 1974, No. 5 USC 18, No. 3 Ohio State 17. Pat Haden threw a 38-yard scoring pass to J.K. McKay, USC coach John McKay's son, with 2:03 left. The Trojans then pulled off the shocker when Haden tossed a two-point conversion to the diving Shelton Diggs for the deciding points, depriving Ohio State (10-2) of a shot at the title.

-- 1975, No. 11 UCLA 23, No. 1 Ohio State 10. The Buckeyes had swamped the Bruins 41-20 in Los Angeles on Oct. 4 and had rolled through their schedule before a rematch with the 15-point underdogs in the Rose Bowl. John Sciarra hit Wally Henry with two TD passes in the third quarter and Ohio State QB Cornelius Greene threw two late interceptions -- casting a pall over Archie Griffin's second Heisman.

"That's the most disappointing game that I had while I was at Ohio State," Griffin would say later.

-- 1979, No. 3 Southern Cal 17, No. 1 Ohio State 16. The legendary Hayes was fired after slugging Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman near the end of Ohio State's loss in the 1978 Gator Bowl. A former Hayes assistant, Earle Bruce, was hired to take over. Unranked in the preseason, Ohio State climbed to No. 1 by winning its first 11 games. In the Rose Bowl, Heisman Trophy winner Charles White led an 83-yard march that ended with White's 1-yard touchdown. Eric Hipp's extra point gave the Trojans a 17-16 victory.

-- 2006, No. 2 Florida 41, No. 1 Ohio State 17. Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but was injured by a teammate during the celebration. It was all downhill from there as Florida dominated on both sides of the ball. Heisman winner Troy Smith had the worst game of his career, completing 4-of-14 passes for 35 yards with one interception.

"Not everything in life is going to go the exact way you that you want it," Smith said after the game.

Asked how he felt, Florida coach Urban Meyer -- an Ohio native -- said, "This is a once in a lifetime deal."

The Buckeyes are hoping it is too.